Question: Can you give the progressive best Test bowling figures (in terms of matches)?
Spider says: Certainly. It is a remarkably insubstantial list compared to the cumulative highest Test score in batting - the record has, essentially, changed hands just 4 times. If one starts from what is now recognised as the inaugural Test (it was not thought of as a Test at the time - in fact the term had never been used) then England spinner Alfred Shaw was the first holder, as he had the best figures in that match of 8-89. Fred Spofforth took 13-110 in another game now recognised as a Test, the one-off in 1878/79; mention must be made of Fred Morley's 8-146, the best figures in the first genuine Test match which was seen at the time it was being played as the best of one country against the best of another, the one-off at The Oval in 1880. Spofforth's 14-90, which snatched the next genuine Test in sensational style, gave rise to The Ashes, emphasised how badly Spofforth had been missed in the 1880 Test (he sat it out in protest at Australia's selection of wicketkeeper), and saw him ascend to the unequivocal title of best Test match figures holder, came next. Then murky territory comes again - Johnny Briggs took 15-28 in 1888/89 against a South African side deplorably below Test standard and, at the time, again not remotely thought of as Test-playing. The genuine break of Spofforth's record came from Wilfred Rhodes, who took 15-124 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1903/04. From here it is unequivocal; Rhodes and Briggs were beaten by the incomparable SF Barnes, who took 17-159 at Old Wanderers ground in Johannesburg in 1913/14, and next comes the best of them all, Jim Laker's 19-90 at Old Trafford in 1956.
So, really, the record goes:
With just 4 changes of hand.
Q: And, given that the best is now 54 years old and exceptionally unlikely ever to be bettered, what would the progressive best be if you started from the next ten-for after Laker's?
A :There was only a short wait for the next ten-for after Laker's 19-90 - Fazal Mahmood took 13-114, again against the Australians, at National Stadium Karachi in 1956/57. These were bettered by Jasubhai Patel at Green Park Kanpur in 1958/59, and the Australians were once again the opponents. These were not surpassed until a performance almost as famous as Laker's - Bob Massie at Lord's in 1972, who took 16-137. The best since Laker then comes from Narendra Hirwani, who just beat Massie, taking 16-136 when he decimated West Indies almost by himself in 1987/88 at Chepauk Stadium, in what was then Madras and is now Chennai.
Q: I got asked a quiz question a little while ago to which I could find no answer - what do Tim Munton, Steve Watkin and Neil Mallender have in common? Could you answer?
A: Well, what they do have in common is pretty loose, and it is this: in 1991 (Watkin) and 1992 (Munton and Mallender) they achieved success (the degree varied) at Headingley to help England win Test matches but barely played apart from those games. Even here though there is variance: for Munton and Mallender it was their only Test success as they played just once besides (Munton's other game came the previous match; he took 1-138; Mallender played the game after and took 2-93), and Munton was very much a support bowler to Mallender - they took 3-62 and 8-122 respectively. Watkin, too, was a support merchant, backing-up Phillip DeFreitas with 5-93, but after appearing to go the same way (his next match produced 0-60 and he was dropped immediately) he was called-up for the last Test of the 1993 summer, alongside Angus Fraser and Devon Malcolm. And this time spoils were shared equally; Watkin's 6-152 was as big a factor as either Fraser or Malcolm's returns in England's consolation victory. Munton and Watkin, who were both 26, were quite a bit younger than Mallender (nearly 31) at the time of their calls too. So, though the three have some common ground, they also have much to consider themselves different. One other thing which could be said to be similar about them is that they were extremely unlucky not to play more than they did, as in spite of the fact that none had truly outstanding domestic records, merely good ones, throughout the careers of all many inept seamers appeared for England and they would have been more likely to have enjoyed Test success than many who were given as much or more opportunity than they.
Q: Is it true that Ronnie Irani's ODI career had two parts, one of which was twice the length of the other?
A: Well, pretty much. Irani played 10 ODIs in 1996 and 1996/97, then 21 in 2002 and 2002/03. Strictly speaking, this of course means the second part was 2.1 times the length of the first, but that is just about close enough to be considered twice the length in my book.
Q: Given that captains tend to be batsmen, I wondered what the best bowling performance by a captain is in ODIs?
A: The best is from Waqar Younis, who grabbed a phenomenal 10-36-7 against England at Headingley in 2001, including a wicket with the opening delivery of the match. Waqar also has the third-best (Vivian Richards, of all people, comes second), and it was taken a couple of days later, 8-59-6 against Australia at Trent Bridge. Remarkably, just 15 ODI five-fors have been taken by skippers, of which a couple came against Bangladesh and most feature more than once; Waqar took the two above and one other, his long-time partner Wasim Akram has a couple, Shaun Pollock and Kapil Dev one each; and the other six all come from batsmen who bowled pretty good part-time, they being Greg Chappell, Richards (two each), Sanath Jayasuriya and Sourav Ganguly.